Fasting Anna calls for ‘revolution’ as thousands rally (Third Lead)

August 19th, 2011 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Enthused by the nationwide support for his anti-corruption campaign, civil society activist Anna Hazare Thursday vowed to be on fast till a strong Lokpal Bill was passed and called for a “transformation” of India.

Addressing thousands of cheering supporters on reaching the rain-drenched Ramlila ground here, after a nearly three-hour journey from Tihar Jail where he had been since Tuesday, the 74-year-old was full of energy as he took a hardline stance on an anti-corruption legislation.

“We will not leave this place till a (stronger) Lokpal bill is passed,” Hazare said, urging the young collected at the spacious ground not to abandon the fight against India’s endemic corruption.

“This is the start of a new revolution, of a new freedom struggle,” declared the soldier-turned-activist whose arrest Tuesday sparked off nationwide protests and put the government in a political fix.

“This torch of revolution should always remain lit. It is not just about Lokpal. We have to bring about a transformation in this country,” he said in chaste Hindi. The crowds responded with slogans hailing him.

People, he added, would not tolerate any more the loot of national wealth.

The brief speech, heralding the start of an indefinite fast at Ramlila ground, came on Day 4 of the Anna saga which has left the Congress-led coalition wondering how to tackle him.

Hazare was arrested and sent to Tihar Jail Tuesday when he set out to begin his hunger strike. As mass protests erupted, the government did a U-turn and ordered him released.

But he refused to leave the prison until he was allowed to fast without fetters. Eventually, the authorities agreed to let him use the vast Ramlila ground that can accommodate thousands of people.

As he stepped out of Tihar Jail Friday morning, hundreds of people, many of who had been camping outside the prison for days, cheered even as heavy rains lashed the area.

With a protective ring thrown by police and activists of India Againt Corruption (IAC), Hazare started a journey in an open truck decorated with Indian flags, negotiating his way through massive crowds.

At one point, the procession was two kilometres long. The crowds was made up of people from all ages and varying socio-economic backgrounds.

Accompanied by thousands, it took Hazare nearly three hours to reach Ramlila via Rajghat, where he paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi, and a halt at India Gate, now dedicated to Indian soldiers.

An ebullient Hazare at one stage was seen sprinting away from police personnel at Rajghat.

The crowds appeared quite unmindful of the rain. Some said it was a good omen.

As Hazare stepped out of the Tihar Jail, he shouted slogans of “Inquilab zindabad”, “Jai Hind” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, betraying the fact that he had lost three kilograms since his fast started Tuesday.

Hazare was emotive: “I thank you all for the support. We got independence in 1947 but our fight for complete independence has begun on Aug 16 and we will fight till we manage to get a corruption-free India.”

He added to loud cheers: “The fight against corruption should continue whether or not I am alive. It’s a people’s movementm and you should fight on even after I am gone.”

At Ramlila ground, there was a sea of school children, some who had bunked their classes to come out in support of Hazare.

“I have come here to support Annaji and we will get the civil society version of Lokpal bill passed come what may,” said Prateek Babar, student of Rajkiya Sarvodya Vidhyalaya School in west Delhi.

Protests against the government version of the Lokpal Bill and in support of Hazare also continued in several cities and towns of India for a fourth straight day.

Team Hazare is bitterly opposed to the government-sponsored Lokpal Bill that excludes from its ambit the prime minister, the judiciary and the mass of government officials.

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